For the past 70 years, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra (‘The SPO’) has played a leading role in enriching the cultural lives of Korea’s citizens. In 2005, under the inspirational leadership of Maestro Myung-Whun Chung, the orchestra was reborn and this set a new standard for orchestral music in Korea. The SPO performs a wide range of repertoire from Mozart to Messiaen and continues to shatter box office records. Indeed, in 2011 the SPO became Asia’s first orchestra to sign an exclusive worldwide ten-CD contract with the Deutsche Grammophon record label. Impressively, the first two albums that were released instantly went platinum. Furthermore, the orchestra is at the very forefront in terms of the recording technology it uses – the SPO recording studio is fitted with 56 channels of Sennheiser and Neumann digital microphones, which makes it the world’s first all-digital studio.
The microphone equipment includes 44 digital small-diaphragm condensers from Sennheiser’s MKH 8000 studio range plus four Neumann TLM 193 large-diaphragm condensers. All of the microphones are digitised directly behind the microphone head by the Sennheiser MZD 8000 digital modules and powered and controlled via Neumann DMI 8 digital interfaces.
The MKH 8000 microphones include 24 cardioid models, six super-cardioids, six wide cardioids, four multi-pattern microphones and four MKH 800 TWINs with remotely adjustable pick-up patterns. The TWINs are used as main microphones due to their ability to have their pick-up pattern fine-tuned either on the mixing desk during recording or in post-production. Meanwhile, the cardioids, wide cardioids and super-cardioids are employed as spot microphones and selected according to the type of music that the orchestra plays and the venue in which they are performing.
In addition to the traditional concert hall venues, the SPO plays more than 70 outreach concerts annually, which sees them visiting parks, classrooms and local churches. A number of customised education programmes are also in place. These include “Neighborhood Orchestra” for young people from low socio-economic backgrounds, “Music Story” which is for children and “Pre-concert Lecture” which is aimed at adult audiences. All of these initiatives form part of the orchestra’s vision of expanding its future audience. In addition, the SPO holds a Brass Academy, Conducting Master Class and a Composer’s Master Class that works towards developing and nurturing young artists on a long-term basis.
The SPO is produced by Michael Fine, who is the Senior Advisor for Artistic Planning to the SPO and is also a recording producer. Meanwhile, tonmeister Wolf-Dieter Karwatky is involved with music recordings. He previously worked for Deutsche Grammophon for several years and has been involved with the SPO for five years. With three decades of experience in the recording of classical and jazz music under his belt, Mr Karwatky has been pleased with the digital microphones: “This new digital microphone system provides us with more quality, flexibility and speed than any other existing system, and this applies both during the recording sessions and in post-production. Furthermore, the Sennheiser/Neumann system is free from interference and any kind of technical restraints, as it cuts out analogue cables and interfaces. With the remote capabilities we can immediately adapt to any recording situation – even during the recording process.”
Michael Fine started working with the orchestra in 2005, which was the same year that Maestro Myung-Whun Chung reconstructed the orchestra. Mr Fine has been working with Sennheiser microphones for many years and is also delighted with the all-digital microphone set-up: “One of our first comments was that it almost sounded like there was nothing between us and the stage. It felt like we were actually in the room with the musicians. The clarity was breath-taking and quite extraordinary. Whilst I’m not saying that we can’t make great recordings without this technology, I’m impressed by that additional degree of clarity, beauty of sound and faithfulness of reproduction that we are achieving with these digital microphones.”
Classical music enthusiasts can look forward to two new SPO albums later this year: Chin’s three Concertos scheduled to be released in mid-June this year, and Mahler Symphony No. 9 due to be released in the second half of 2014, both with the Deutsche Grammophon label. Furthermore, the SPO will also be performing at Europe’s premier music festivals this summer. On 21 August, they will be at the Turku Music Festival in Finland, after which they will then travel on to Austria’s Grafenegg Festival (23 August). From there, the next stop will be the Merano Music Festival in Italy, where they will play the opening concert on 25 August before their tour of Europe comes to an end at the world’s greatest classical music festival – the BBC Proms in the United Kingdom (27 August). This will see them make their much anticipated Proms debut in London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Video visit to the SPO on a recording day – with comments by Maestro Myung-Whun Chung, tonmeister Wolf-Dieter Karwatky and Michael Fine, producer and Senior Advisor for Artistic Planning to the SPO: http://youtu.be/lTQn0sg46Eg.
The digital microphone set-up:
24 Sennheiser MKH 8040 cardioid studio condensers
6 Sennheiser MKH 8050 super-cardioids
6 Sennheiser MKH 8090 wide cardioids
4 Sennheiser MKH 800 TWINs with remotely adjustable pick-up pattern
4 Sennheiser MKH 800 multi-pattern microphones
4 Neumann TLM 193 large-diaphragm cardioids
56 Sennheiser MZD 8000 digital modules for the microphones (includes spares for system extension)
7 Neumann DMI 8 digital interfaces (ditto)
Vorm geven aan de sound van morgen en voor zijn klanten unieke klankervaringen tot stand brengen… Dat is het doel waarrond wereldwijd alle medewerkers en partners van Sennheiser zich verenigen. De onderneming is opgericht in 1945 en uitgegroeid tot een van ’s werelds toonaangevende producenten van koptelefoons, microfoons en draadloze zendersystemen. Met zijn 21 verkoopfilialen en partnerrelaties van vele jaren is de groep actief in ruim 50 landen. Daarnaast telt hij nog eens eigen productiefaciliteiten in Duitsland, Ierland, Roemenië en de VS. Sinds 2013 staat met Daniel Sennheiser en Dr. Andreas Sennheiser de derde generatie van de familie aan het hoofd van de onderneming. In 2017 genereerde de Sennheiser-groep een omzet van in totaal € 667,7 miljoen.